Du Randt the ox who anchored Boks to 1995 glory
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It is quite remarkable that Os du Randt was one of the colossal figures of the ’95 World Cup triumph when a year before that June final he had been uncapped by the Springboks and had had just a handful of Currie Cup caps for the Cheetahs.
Going into that World Cup, he was a 22-year-old diesel mechanic apprentice in Bloemfontein.
Du Randt was a farm boy from Elliot in the Eastern Cape - the same town that produced Mark Andrews, Du Randts’ teammate in the ’95 Bok side - and after school at Adelaide Gimnasium he was called up for army national service in Bloemfontein and his love of things mechanical was fostered.
After national service he remained in Bloem and worked as an apprentice at Barlows Caterpillar, a company specialising in earth-moving equipment. It seems Os had a knack for shifting heavy things not just opposition tighthead props.
In his autobiography “Os” he tells of taking apart appliances to see what they looked like inside and then trying to put them together again. He once created a motorbike from the scraps of broken ones.
While he enjoyed rugby at school, he didn’t have a passion to become a rugby star. So rugby grew on him as he himself continued to grow into, well, an ox!
He got picked for age group teams along the way through school and the army but it was when he was playing for the Free State Under 20s that he began to get noticed.
And his call-up to the senior Free State side came when Ollie le Roux was picked for the Boks in June 1994, opening a gap at loosehead prop. Os played nine Currie Cup games before he himself was picked for the Boks later that year, when Argentina toured; and he then also played on the Boks end-of-year tour to the UK.
So from almost overnight Os became a fixture in the Bok front row under Kitch Christie, who had taken over as coach in 1994 and, legend has it, had listened wisely when the influential Transvaal and Bok hooker Uli Schmidt told Christie that having played against this kid called Os, he wanted him next to him in the Bok front row.
Schmidt didn’t make it to the ’95 World Cup but he was right about Os. There was a passage of play in the famous semi-final against France in Durban where the French had five attacking scrums in a row near the South African try-line to win the game, but Os did not budge as he anchored the scrum, and the French were kept at bay.
In the final, the unsung heroes against the All Blacks was the front row that denied the Kiwis the solid scrum that would have given the likes of Jonah Lomu front-foot ball.
Perhaps it is fitting that Mark Andrews, the lock that pushed behind Os in the Bok scrum in so many Tests, should sum up one of the greats of the game:
“The fact that he is larger than most other props is not the extraordinary thing about Os. At six foot two and 128kgs he is able to tackle like Henry Honiball on steroids and run and past like a loose forward, giving him an unfair advantage over his opponents.
“What makes any Test player special is his ability to do what his position expects of him yet is consistently able to do what is not expected of him with as much ease. For me, that sums up Os.”